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Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

2 Chron. 36:14-16,19-23; Eph. 2:4-10 & Mk. 1:21-28.

People were profoundly affected both by the things Jesus said and the way that He said them. In today's Gospel Mark deals with the reaction of His listeners. Most of the people were favourably impressed. “He spoke unlike the scribes and taught with authority” but one man was plainly offended. "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?" Mark explains his behaviour by saying he "was possessed by an unclean spirit" and he saw Jesus as a threat to his present way of living.

We tend to forget what a disturbing presence Jesus was. Even before His birth, He drastically altered the plans of Mary and Joseph and, while a baby, He evoked the anger of a jealous and brutal king. As a grown man, He made one brief trip to the country of the Gerasenes where He cast out of one man a legion of devils into a group of pigs and the locals begged Him to leave. Zachaeus was probably the wealthiest man in Jericho, until He opened the doors of his home and his heart to Jesus: that brief visit cost him most of his fortune as he gave half to the poor and paid restitution fourfold. Nicodemus had reached the pinnacle of His career as a teacher of Israel and a member of the Sanhedrin court. Then he had a private meeting with Jesus and from that moment he was a troubled man, his conscience pulling in one direction and His career in another. Joseph of Arimathea had a similar experience, torn between his prestige and his convictions. As John tells us “he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.”

After the crucifixion Jesus went on disturbing people's lives. Saul of Tarsus had a promising future, respected for his scholarship and admired for his zeal. Then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and everything changed. He became a hated and a hunted man.

Over a thousand years later look what Jesus did to Francis of Assisi: an heir to great wealth, Christ challenged him and he lived the life of a poor man.

That man in the synagogue at Capernaum was right. He may have been possessed but he was aware that involvement with Christ would mean radical changes in his life. The rest of the crowd were “deeply impressed by what Jesus said” but we are not told whether they did anything about it! As far as we know the man possessed who felt threatened by Jesus was the only person changed that day.

What about us? Would we be like that man or one of the crowd? Do we take the teachings of Christ to heart and apply them in our lives? The thought of changing our lives can be frightening. Here we join the company of the man who wanted Christ to leave Him alone. But his experience differs from ours in at least one way. Without prior consent or consultation, Jesus cast out the unclean spirit and made the man whole.

Jesus does not work with us like that because He makes no corrections in our lives against our will. But if we allow Him, He will most certainly get rid of those things that separate us from Him, so to be threatened by Jesus is not a bad thing. It simply means taking Him seriously. If we do that it will be the first step on the road to a better way of living.

Lord Jesus, may I hand over to You all that leads me away from You that I may live only for You. It is in doing this that I will find true contentment and happiness.

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